Part of the reason for my absence is my wife’s family’s visit, which has yielded some pretty interesting observations and which I hope to write about this week.
They have different viewing tastes than I do, to be certain, but I am beginning to realize something very basic about watching TV with them around.
Quite simply, watching TV in groups is much more fun than watching it alone.
I have been getting that impression for a while now. As a media studies instructor, we force our students to watch certain shows (for educational purposes, of course). One of the shows that always goes over well is NBC’s The Biggest Loser, which produces predictable laughter, but also the occasional unpredictable tear…
Recently, my wife and I have also made the pilgrimage to Austin’s famous Alamo Drafthouse to watch some of the latest episodes of Mad Men. Though I had seen one of the episodes we watched before, the audience revealed some of the episodes big laughs, as well as illuminating the intricate comic timing in the particular episode.
Dancing With the Stars, Season 11
So last night’s experiment began with my wife’s grandmother, who asked me to put on Dancing With the Stars, just so we could see Bristol Palin dance.
Well, it began with that way, but we instantly broke the promise when we watched the entire show.
Even though the rest of the family made fun of my wife’s grandmother and I, they all ended up watching in the end. As Jennifer Grey (of Dirty Dancing fame) they all conspicuously left whatever they were doing to watch with us.
(My wife even choked up a little when Jennifer got sad at the memory of Patrick Swayze…)
A couple of points. First, I have never watched this show at all, with my wife or anyone else. I’ve never really gotten the appeal. I’m not so much a fan of watching shows where people can’t do stuff, I would rather watch people who can.
I may have gone on about this somewhere else, but I think that this is part of the major appeal of reality TV that features people who can’t do stuff. For one, it generates a (false?) sense of belief that your average person can do anything they put their mind to – who cares about training for years to become a dancer?
The other thing I think it does is cultivate a false sense of expertise in the viewer. Please don’t be mistaken, I’m not trying to insult anyone, but my experience in watching these shows has made me an “expert” on interior design, fashion, cooking, singing, and obviously, dancing.
My second point is, TV is a social medium. As we sat there Grandma and I swapped stories about who we liked on the show, who we thought was terrible and why. She filled me in with which host was mean, which one was gay and which one was nice, and I filled her in on who “The Situation” was.
I even flipped over to a moment of Jersey Shore, just so she could see the crew in action. When she saw him she said “Oh, obviously he’s on steroids.” I also tried to tell her about his new product, a vodka infused with protein, and she was as perplexed as I was about why he was famous.
Neither of us could figure out why Bristol was there in the first place, or why she scored so high, but it seemed as though her badness was just as important as whether or not she was good.
Most important, it generated a shared experience, and something else to talk about as we two “experts” ranged through topics like who could dance, who was a good entertainer, and who should just give up and go home.
I’ll stop here for now, but will probably talk a little bit next time on the pleasures of watching Modern Family as a group tomorrow.